Carolyn Collins has become something of a cult celebrity around the City of Tucker.
The Tucker High School custodian has quietly provided necessities like coats, shoes and food for homeless students for the past three years. It comes from community donations to her “Giving Closet”, a formerly empty storage closet inside the high school.
But that closet isn’t empty anymore.
“My closet is full. I don’t have enough space!” Collins says with a laugh.
That’s because after Collins was profiled on 11Alive News in December her story spread like wildfire. A Facebook video produced by 11Alive’s parent company drew almost 1.7 million views. Suddenly, instead of some altruistic teachers or community leaders making small donations, the Giving Closet was getting donations from all over the country.
“There’s been a change,” Collins explains. “It went from something small to something big.”
In the aftermath of the attention, Collins was faced with a previously unthinkable dilemma: having to reject donations because she had nowhere to store them.
When other school leaders around Tucker got word that the Giving Closet was at capacity, they wanted to help. Midvale Elementary School is exploring storage options, even hoping to tie the Giving Closet concept into their fifth grade International Baccalaureate service project. Other schools in the Tucker cluster, inspired by Collins’ compassion, are looking at how they can adopt the concept to serve underprivileged students in their own classrooms.
“I want this to get bigger and bigger,” Collins says. “There are homeless kids in every school: elementary, middle and high. It’s in every school. I want every school to get some kind of closet to be able to help the kids in the community.”
As for the attention her efforts have gotten, Collins admits that her 15 minutes of fame aren’t quite up. In recent days she says she’s gotten phone calls from Steve Harvey and the Atlanta Hawks, both asking if they could honor her. That’s fine, she says, but the real rewards come from the students she’s helping.
“They hug me and they say ‘thank you Mrs. Collins.’ They just want to be loved.”